* Project may cost up to 6 billion euros
* Final investment decision could come by 2020
* Ministers to meet again in six months
By Ari Rabinovitch
TEL AVIV, April 3 (Reuters) - European and Israeli governments gave their support on Monday to moving forward with a Mediterranean pipeline project to carry natural gas from Israel to Europe, setting a target date of 2025 for completion.
The planned 2,000 km (1,248 mile) pipeline aims to link gas fields off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy, at a cost of up to 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion).
“This is an ambitious project, which as the Commission, we clearly support, as it will have a high value in terms of security of supply and diversification targets,” said European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete.
Israel has discovered more than 900 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas offshore, with some studies pointing to another 2,200 bcm waiting to be tapped. Along with the European market, it is exploring options to export to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
Cyprus’ Aphrodite natural gas field holds an additional 128 bcm, and Cypriot waters are expected to hold more reserves.
After a meeting in Tel Aviv between energy ministers from Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, Canete told reporters he believed the project would “meet all relevant requirements” to make financial commitment possible.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the pipeline could be completed in 2025. “But we will try to speed up and to shorten the timetable,” he said.
A feasibility study has been completed and the next few years would focus on “proper development activities”, with a final investment decision expected by 2020, said Elio Ruggeri, chief executive of IGI Poseidon, the project owners.
IGI Poseidon is a joint venture between Greece’s DEPA and Italian energy group Edison.
“Our estimate today is for the pipeline to cost 5 billion euros to (reach) the Greek system and 6 billion euros to (reach)the Italian system,” Ruggeri told Reuters.
The energy ministers said they would next meet in Cyprus in six months to further advance the project.
$1 = 0.9370 euros Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Edmund Blair